APOPO primarily works in collaboration with Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), removing landmines and other explosives in Cambodia since 2014. Our teams are made up of over 100 people, most of whom were recruited and trained from mine-affected areas. In this way APOPO targets the most mine-affected villages in order to return safe, productive land back to communities where it makes the biggest impact.
In Cambodia we integrate a mix of scent detection animals to speed things up: landmine detection rats to speed up landmine clearance, technical survey dogs to release large areas ahead of clearance when there is no evidence of landmines and finally manual deminers and machines to support the animals. The program currently has 60+ animals working in 4 provinces – Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Battambang and Ratanakiri.
According to the Landmine Monitor, Cambodia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world with over 1, 000 km² of land surface still contaminated by landmines. It is estimated that many hundreds of thousands of landmines and other explosives continue to litter the countryside, presenting a major humanitarian and socioeconomic challenge. With over 40,000 amputees Cambodia has the highest ratio of mine amputees per capita in the world.
APOPO first began joint operations with CMAC in 2014. During this initial phase APOPO’s capacity was made up of manual demining teams, technical survey and clearance teams, mechanical armored brush cutters as well as explosive ordnance disposal teams. The project focused on Siem Reap province in northern Cambodia.
Joint APOPO – CMAC Project
In 2015, APOPO sent its mine detection rats (MDR) to Cambodia following successful mine clearance projects in Angola and Mozambique. This was the first time the MDR were assigned to a country outside of the African continent. Our MDR teams began supporting existing conventional demining CMAC teams on the minefields in 2016.
Our operations began in the Srey Nui area of Siem Reap, where suspect land along roads and farmland has not been safe to use for over 30 years. The surrounding rural population depends largely on agriculture. By clearing the area we will return much-needed safe land back to the communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. This in turn will allow them to improve their livelihoods by increasing their livestock and expanding their farms.
Since 2018 our teams are also working in Preah Vihear province, not only returning safe land to the local communities and allowing for resettlement – but clearing land near the Preah Vihear Temple area which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. An area that is riddled with landmines, cluster munitions and other deadly legacies of past conflict.
The program effectively doubled its capacity in 2019. Operations in Siem Reap province expanded further to the north, into the province of Oddar Meanchey lying alongside the Cambodia-Thailand border. Newly trained Technical Survey Dogs (TSD) were also integrated into the project to further accelerate the land release process. Never before have there been Technical Survey dogs used in this way and this marks a first milestone in the industry.
In 2020 APOPO entered into collaboration with Mines Advisory Group (MAG), who began using APOPO’s animals alongside their teams. 2021 saw APOPO signing another agreement with Humanity & Inclusion (HI), mainly around the treatment of landmine victims from APOPO’s areas of operation.
In Cambodia APOPO is integrating a mix of scent detection animals to speed things up: landmine detection rats to speed up landmine clearance, technical survey dogs (TSD) to release large areas ahead of clearance when there is no evidence of landmines and finally manual deminers and machines to support the animals. The program currently has 60+ animals working in 4 provinces – Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Battambang and Ratanakiri.
The first detection dog service delivery was under a UN managed contract to The Development Initiative (TDI) in South Sudan, providing an ongoing source of income that supports APOPO’s own operations. These dogs are doing well, and with additional partners, APOPO could further expand into more mine-affected countries and territories.
Since the start of the project, APOPO Cambodia has contributed to the release of over 33 million square meters of land, and safely located and destroyed over 49,000 landmines and other hazardous items.
Mine Risk Education
APOPO works meticulously to make land safe by clearing landmines and other explosives, so families living near minefields can rebuild their lives and children can play in safety. However, clearing minefields takes time. For families living surrounded by hidden dangers, Explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) is the best way to prevent casualties. It is important that nearby communities are taught how to stay safe.
We try and inform as many people as possible with life-saving information on how to recognize, avoid and report threats. The project is ongoing in collaboration with Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), in coordination with the provincial education units and with the help and support of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA)